Editor’s note: This feature story on Kate Schiltz ’22 is the third of six that will appear this summer about College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University graduates who have received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
Kate Schiltz ’22 really never had any other choice but to excel.
Her sister, Anna, graduated summa cum laude at Macalester College. One of her brothers, Joe, finished his studies at the University of Minnesota with a 4.0 grade-point average. Her mother, Elizabeth, is the interim associate dean at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. And her father, Patrick, is a U.S. District Court judge in Minneapolis.
So, we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that Kate doubled-majored in English and Hispanic studies, never got lower than an A in any of her coursework at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, and is one of six CSB and SJU grads who have earned Fulbright Student awards for the 2022-23 academic year.
Beginning this fall, she will live in Madrid, Spain, and work as an English Teaching Assistant at IE University, a private school which features students from more than 130 countries and is ranked by many metrics as one of the top universities in Europe.
Of course, being a Fulbrighter isn’t even unique in her own household. Joe earned the honor several years ago and studied in Berlin.
“I’ve had really good role models,” Kate said. “I saw them succeed and so I felt like ‘I’ve got to do that, too.’”
Brother, Peter, heartens her outlook
Yet, with all that intellectual firepower in her family tree, Kate draws perhaps most motivation from her brother, Peter, who is five years older and was born with Down Syndrome, autism and speech apraxia.
“We’re super close,” Kate said. “He’s just the best human I have ever interacted with. He’s taught me a lot about what it means to be authentic, because he doesn’t really care what other people think. He doesn’t really have that ability. He’s often happy and he knows exactly when I’m sad and how to cheer me up. Since he’s my older brother, I never grew up having to learn that he had a disability. He was always just my brother. As I got older, I could tell people would start acting different toward him and I would figure it out. But it was a really unique experience. As much as I may help take care of him physically, he definitely takes care of me emotionally.”
It’s one reason she wants to pursue a career in helping people with disabilities. And, since her sister married a man from Bolivia – and they recently had a baby, Kate also feels an interest in immigration because of the experience of her brother-in-law.
“I see how he’s been treated and all the legal hoops he has to jump through as a non-citizen of the U.S., and that’s made me think maybe I want to do something with the Spanish-speaking population,” Kate said. “Especially if they have disabilities because I know the barriers they face. And if they speak Spanish, there are even more barriers they’re likely to face.”
Not surprisingly, Kate plans to go to law school once she completes her Fulbright study.
“I tried to run away from it as long as I could and not be like my parents, but it’s inevitable,” she said. “I’ve realized I really like law. I like how it works.”
Witnessing Chauvin sentencing affirms future in the law
Discounting the influence of her mom and dad, Kate was energized by a summer 2021 internship with state court judge Judge Edward Wahl, and she also got to spend time shadowing Judge Peter Cahill. Both serve the Fourth Judicial District out of the Hennepin County Courthouse. Kate was privileged to sit in on a variety of their meetings and hearings, including being one of only a handful of people allowed to watch the Derek Chauvin sentencing live in the courtroom. In addition to watching Judge Cahill, Kate got to meet both legal teams in one of the most high-profile cases in recent U.S. history.
“That internship really cemented my interest in the field of law, and I learned so much from really incredible professionals,” Kate said.
She’s well on her way to joining them. After graduating from Minnetonka High School, she served four years as a tutor in the Writing Center at CSB and SJU. That was in addition to earning Phi Beta Kappa status as senior, membership in Delta Epsilon Sigma – an elite national Catholic Honor Society and serving as president of Students for Life and vice president of the AKS Service Sorority.
“What drew me to Saint Ben’s – and it’s cliché because everybody says it – is the community,” Schiltz said. “Immediately walking around campus, I felt at home and like everybody genuinely cared about everybody else. The professors, the monks and the sisters cared about us. I think because my family is so close, I wanted that feeling in college, too. Leaving now as an alum, I found some incredible people who made me feel like I have a new family that helped me through some hard times and also were there for some really great ones.”
Kate visited Spain for two weeks in high school and lived in Italy for two months when her mom was teaching in Rome.
“I’ve traveled with my parents, but I’m excited about this time coming up and being able to travel on my own,” Kate said. “When I was growing up, we had a lot of au pairs – including some from Germany and Poland. I think it would be really cool to visit them. And I would love to go back and walk around where I used to live in Rome.”
Kate leaves in September for her Fulbright duties, but first she’ll work this summer as a barista and also be a caretaker for her brother.
“Leaving him is going to be the hardest part of going away,” she said.
CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2023-24 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gunnerson Gutsch, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at CSB and SJU.